On my last day 10 I found myself having to take a four hour car journey. It wasn’t planned, in fact it was all down to a faulty alternator, but it meant a trip to Newport to buy a new car on a day I was supposed to be Feeding. Refusing to give in I looked into ways I could turn this time trapped in a spluttering Skoda to good use and I struck gold.
Radiolab – a series of podcasts from an American radio show – was my salvation. From an automaton monk built in the 14th century, to the psychology of gaming and why its fundamental to being human, these guys seek out the intriguing, engaging and eye-opening stories that make our world spin and then tell them.
It’s a bit weird when you first start listening – sort of a Radio 4 ‘lite’ – but if you can put the choppy editing and American whooping aside, it’s brilliant.
On top of the interesting discussions and thinking points, which I’ll get to later, the thing that really struck me about this show, was the art of storytelling. Radiolab’s hosts are truly practiced at their craft, taking what could seem like niche topics or mundane events if told straight and injecting them with life, energy and emotion so that within minutes you’re perched on the edge of your (in my case, car) seat.
I never thought I would be so fascinated to hear about how in 1956 – at just 13 – chess genius Bobby Fischer took on a grand master and went ‘off book’ to make a game-changing move that revolutionised modern chess. Or that I would marvel at the fact there are more possible moves in chess than there are atoms in the universe. Or that I’d be desperate to hear about how a game of basketball, where only two players were left on one team fighting it out to win, would end. But I was.
That’s what Radiolab did. By lovingly sculpting anecdotes into expertly constructed narratives these podcasts ignited my fascination at every turn. At the end of the day, isn’t that what brilliant words are all about? Whether read or heard, they need to ignite fascination.
Well done Radiolab. I salute you.
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